...from Hollywood to Nashville, from Solo to Symphony
the 2003 Festival featured a diverse range of accordion excellence!

General Review | Jeff Lisenby | Frank Marocco

General Review

The Accordionists and Teachers Guild, International celebrated their 63rd Anniversary during an action packed weekend of music, competitions, performances and workshops at their annual convention which was held in the Chicago area.

Four outstanding concerts featured such guest artists as former ATG Champion and Nashville recording star Jeff Lisenby, Jazz Legend Frank Marocco, Chicago Jazz accordionist John Simkus, (pictured left) the UMKC Community Accordion Orchestra under the direction of Joan C. Sommers, Italian concert accordionist and director of the Scandalli Accordion Factory Mirco Patarini (pictured right), Trio Bez Ime ensemble featuring Dee Langley and The "K" Trio minus one.

Other performers included: Joanna and Stan Darrow, Tony Lovello, Igor Zavadsky from Kiev, the Star-Sera duo of John Simkus and Stas Venglevski, The KC Seven. In addition to the scheduled performers, several contestants from the competitions were selected by the adjudicators to perform on the concert including "The Stars of Tomorrow" (left) from the International School of Music in Chicago under the direction of Peter Giacalone and Barbara Slechter, Samantha and Christine Jarquio and Shanxi Upsdell from UMKC Conservatory of Music under Joan Sommers and Andrea Caruso from Dearborn, Michigan a student of Lana Gore.

A highlight of the annual convention is the Festival Orchestra which was this year under the baton of UMKC Community Accordion Orchestra director Joan Sommers, Janet Millard the musical director of the Concord Symphony Orchestra in Milwaukee and conductor of the Auckland Symphony Orchestra in New Zealand Gary Daverne. The orchestra performed several times during the festival including at a cameo appearance at the Arlington Race Track which opened the days racing. (pictured below)

Several competitions were held including some which qualify the contestants to enter the CIA Coupe Mondiale World Accordion Championships in Slovakia and Hungary in October. (The ATG held two categories on behalf of their sister organization The New Zealand Accordion Association (NZAA). The contestant is a New Zealand citizen residing in the United States, so this competition was held on behalf of the NZAA to serve as a qualification round to represent New Zealand in the Coupe Mondiale.)

  • Christine Jarqueo, Junior Virtuoso Competition
  • Andrea Caruso, Junior Coupe Mondiale
  • Shanxi Upsdell, Junior Virtuoso Competition (New Zealand)
  • Shanxi Upsdell, International Competition for Piano Accordion (New Zealand)

The UMKC Community Accordion Orchestra presented an dazzling performance of pieces from the new award winning movie "Chicago" arranged by ATG Board Member Liz Finch. Complete with singer Whitney Nashville star Jeff Lisenby presented an exciting concert with many styles of music including Country, Scottish, Cajun music with his outstanding accordion work being complimented by violin, rhythm section and vocalists. The audience rewarded the electric performance with a standing ovation, and just when the everyone thought they had heard it all, Jazz legend Frank Marocco brought the audience to their feet again with his show that included many popular Jazz favorites both solo and with the backing band.

The Saturday Orchestra Extravaganza Concert featured the ATG Festival Orchestra performing under the direction of Joan C. Sommers, Janet Millard and Gary Daverne. Among the compositions performed was "Pocket Overture" composed by Gary Daverne which won the 1993 ATG Composition Competition. As an encore, the 50 piece orchestra stood and played 'Chicago' as a tribute to Joan Sommers and her work for the ATG. (Pictured above is Janet Millard rehearsing the Festival Orchestra.)

After the Festival Orchestra portion of the concert, the audience was treated to a program of three accordion concertos with the Concord Symphony Orchestra from Milwaukee. The featured soloists were Kevin Friedrich performing Gem of the Kaipara by Gary Daverne, Lidia Kaminska performing Concerto Classico by Przybylski and Stas Venglevski performing the Concerto No. 2 by Anthony Galla-Rini. Each of the soloists received a standing ovation during this rare evening of accordion concertos. (Pictured are conductor Gary Daverne, Janet Millard, soloist Stas Venglevski (incoming ATG President), conductor and immediate Past ATG President Joan Sommers and soloist Kevin Friedrich.)

During the festival many workshops were given on diverse subjects such as The Music of Astor Piazzolla, Wild and Crazy Rhythms of Eastern Europe, Quebecois Accordion Music, What is Expected of the "Session Player", The Importance of Teaching Left Hand Free Bass, and a panel moderated by Kevin Friedrich on "What is Important for the Accordion Arranger to Know" with panelists Gary Daverne, Joan Sommers, Jeff Lisenby, Liz Finch and Stas Venglevski. There were also exhibits and displays by Ernest Deffner Publications, Pancordion, PanItalia, Pigini Accordion, Titano Accordions, Paul Leonard and his Accordion Jewelry as well as the ATG Displays.

At the conclusion of the Awards Ceremony and Concert, the formal handing over of the Presidency from Joan Sommers to Stas Venglevski took place.

To conclude the 2003 Annual Competition and Festival, the 2003 Festival Orchestra under the direction of Gary Daverne played the official ATG March, the Paragon March by ATG President Emeritus Anthony Galla-Rini.

2003 Guest - Jeff Lisenby from Nashville
Former ATG United States Champion and popular Nashville recording artist Jeff Lisenby has twice won bronze medals for the ATG in the Coupe Mondiale in European competitions. He also won the silver medal in the international entertainment accordion championship, and has been a keyboardist/accordionist for: Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, the Kansas City Chiefs' football games, USO European tours, shows in Switzerland with TexMex artist Rick Orozco, Norwegian Cruise Lines on Caribbean tours, and has toured extensively with artists Brenda Lee and Boots Randolph, including performances in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, and all over the United States.

Jeff has also performed with the Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Nashville Symphonies. He has accompanied many artists in live shows including: Luciano Pavarotti, Mel Torme, Blake Shelton, Roy Clark, Lee Greenwood, Tricia Yearwood, Jo Dee Messina, Dolly Parton, Three-Dog Night, Jamie O'Neil, The Mills Brothers, and David Cassidy.

Jeff, with a Bachelor of Music degree in accordion performance (studying with Joan Cochran Sommers) and a Master of Arts from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, currently teaches: electronic music classes, the jazz band, and several private accordion and music composition students for the School of Music at Belmont University in Nashville. He also is the conductor/musical director for Vanderbilt University's "Original Cast", a Broadway-style musical revue, that performs a new 2-hour show every semester. Jeff feels that it is because of God's blessings, that he currently is also a gigging and recording-session accordionist, playing on many CD's, jingles, industrial films, and demo sessions. He also is a Nashville session keyboardist, arranger, and producer.
2003 Guest - Frank Marocco from Los Angeles

Chicago born jazz legend, will be featured throughout the festival.

Frank began the accordion at age seven, when his parents enrolled him in a six-week trial program on the accordion.

Frank studied with George Stefani for nine years, a man who provided him with much inspiration. Studying classics, his teacher encouraged him to explore other areas. As a youngster Frank played piano and clarinet, he studied music theory, harmony, conducting and he was a member of his high school band.

Eventually settling in Los Angeles with his wife Anne, Frank found the proximity to Hollywood provided opportunities never available in the Midwest. He began a career which includes traveling with Bob Hope visiting the servicemen in many countries; being featured on the Les Brown Band, including six Love Boat cruises. He has also been very active doing studio work: movie soundtracks, TV movies, TV series, records and advertising jingles. Frank has also composed and arranged many accordion works in jazz and classical music.